Review: Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis

Sensible, practical Elinor Tregarth really did plan to be the model poor relation when she moved into Hathergill Hall. She certainly never meant to kidnap her awful cousin Penelope’s pet dragon. She never expected to fall in love with the shameless – but surprisingly sweet – fortune hunter who came to court Penelope. And she never dreamed that she would have to enter into an outrageous magical charade to save her younger sisters’ futures.

However, even the most brilliant scholars of 1817 England still haven’t ferreted out all the lurking secrets of rediscovered dragonkind…and even the most sensible of heroines can still make a reckless wish or two when she’s pushed. Now Elinor will have to find out just how rash and resourceful she can be when she sets aside all common sense. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll even be impractical enough to win her own true love and a happily ever after…with the unpredictable and dangerous “help” of the magical creature who has adopted her.

Rating: 4/5

Review

I’ve been on a bit of a fantasy of manners kick recently, so it was perfect timing for me to be approved for an ARC of Scales and Sensibility. I’ve previously read and enjoyed Burgis’ Harwood Spellbook series, where my main complaint was that I wished each entry was longer, so I was super thrilled to see her writing a longer book in this new series.

Thankfully, it was delightful as I hoped. I haven’t read all of Jane Austen’s catalogue, but while I’m sure there are plenty of easter eggs for those who have, it’s certainly not necessary to enjoy this book. It’s not so much a retelling of Sense and Sensibility as a homage to all of Austen’s books and the regency genre as a whole. The plot is fairly basic – Elinor Tregarth essentially plays the Cinderella to her awful cousin Penelope, but with the help of her fairy godmother friendly dragon companion, Sir Jessamyn, begins to find a way to express her true worth. But, like all good regency stories, it delights in the absurdity of poor Elinor’s situation, and is filled with tongue in cheek moments of brevity and humour. There’s also a well-rounded supporting cast; I wouldn’t call them all likeable, but they feel very real and it’s fun to watch Elinor negotiate her way around each of them in turn.

If I have any criticisms, it’s that the romance wasn’t hugely compelling – the romantic lead felt the least developed all of all the characters and the resolution to this particular plot arc was rather rushed. It’s also a book that relies in part on Elinor’s emotional connection to her sisters, whom she is avowed to protect but whom we never meet (in this instalment), so some of her decisions don’t resonate as much as they could. But that’s largely offset by the sheer delight and hilarity that the rest of the book brings – I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Note: Scales and Sensibility will be released on 4 October 2021 (and is also available on the author’s patreon here).

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